Microsoft Outlook Data Backup Utility

by Mike McEvoy on September 16, 2009


Email continues to grow in importance to many people’s daily life. As part of that growth millions of people use Microsoft Outlook everyday for reading and managing their email. To help individual Outlook users protect their valuable data Microsoft provides an Outlook data backup utility named “Personal Folder Backup.” This free, easy to install utility simplifies the backup of Outlook’s mail, calendar, contacts and other data.

The Challenge of Backing Up Outlook Data

The main issue that complicates backing up Outlook data is that Microsoft does not make it easy to find the data. On an individual computer Outlook’s data repository is known as a Personal Folder and by default exists as a single file named “Outlook.pst”. However the location of that file can vary substantially based on three factors: the version of Outlook you are using; the version of Windows you are using, and your Username on your computer.

The good news is that Microsoft offers a free data backup utility called Personal Folder Backup that allows you to create a complete backup of your Outlook data and place the backup in the folder of your choice, with a file name of your choice. As an example you can create a folder call “Outlook Backup” inside your “My Documents” folder. Every time you create a back up copy of your Outlook data you can save the file in this clearly labeled folder. Then when you want to back up your Outlook data to an external hard disk drive, DVD or an online data backup service you know exactly where to find it.

The Outlook data backup utility installs a “Backup” selection on the “File Menu” on Outlook’s Menu Bar. But it also gives you a configuration option so that the utility will automatically remind you to make a backup of your Outlook data at an interval that you choose. If you want to make a back up every week set the interval for seven days; if you want to make a back up every month set the interval for thirty days.

How the Data Backup Utility Works

The Outlook Data Backup Utility can be downloaded directly from the Microsoft web site. The same utility works with Outlook 2002 (XP), 2003 and 2007. Simply go to the Microsoft home page, locate the search box and enter “outlook backup” with no quotes. The download page includes instructions for using the utility and looks like this:


Click the Download button and save the “pfbackup.exe” file to your computer. Before installing the Outlook Backup Utility make sure Outlook is closed. Then click on the downloaded file to launch the installation process that consists of a few simple steps.


After the installation process completes, launch Outlook. Click on the “File” option on the Menu Bar at the top of the Outlook screen. You will now see an item labeled “Backup” about two-thirds of the way down the list as shown here:


Outlook Data Backup Frequency and Location

Click on “Backup”. This will launch the utility in a small box labeled “Outlook Personal Folder Backup” like the one below:


Click on the “Options” button and set the Reminder Interval (number of days) and the File Location and click OK.


The default location where the backup file is stored is a rather deeply buried folder where Microsoft also stores the main Outlook data file. You should change this file location to an easier to find folder such as the “My Documents” folder or create a new folder named something like “Outlook Backup” within the “My Documents” folder.

Click on the “Browse” button to locate the appropriate folder. Next click the OK button and then click the Save Backup button. Next, exit Outlook. The Outlook Personal Folder Backup Utility can only make a backup when Outlook has been closed. You will see a dialog box pop up indicating that Outlook is creating the backup. Once the backup is created the notification box will close. Next, look in the folder you designated to make sure that the backup was made correctly.

Creating Multiple Backups:

Another option in using the Outlook Backup Utility is to give your backup file a different name each time you create a new backup file. This allows you to make multiple backups of your Outlook data over time in case one specific backup file is corrupted or infected. One option is to add the day’s date onto the file name each time you create a new backup in a format such as “Outlook Backup 091409.pst”. This will create multiple backups of your Outlook data over time in the event that any one backup file is unusable. The screensot below provides an example.


Regardless of what backup process you use this utility can be very handy. Most people have been using computers long enough so that they, or someone they know, have been through a hard disk crash, severe virus infection, or other form of substantial data loss. I have discusses some different aspects of data backup in previous posts including: “6 Common Computer Data Backup Mistakes” and “Data Backup Part I — Is Your Data Safe?” This Microsoft Outlook backup utility can be helpful in minimizing data loss in the event of disaster. Well worth checking out by anyone using using Microsoft Outlook.



RomoT. September 17, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Great article. I only wish I had this little utility a month ago when my HDD crashed and scrambled by Outlook.pst file and all my email & contacts. I’ll get this and put it to use ASAP — along with a better backup system.

Thanks for the clear info and instructions. Very helpful. I especially like the feature about being able to create multiple backups over time in case of corruption.

Mike McEvoy October 26, 2009 at 12:23 pm

@RomoT – Sorry to hear about the HDD crash. Hopefully the Outlook data backup utility will provide better data security for the future. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

JR December 24, 2009 at 11:14 pm

That is the one flaw of outlook, along with the difficulty Microsoft puts in getting to the data. Because of those reason, I find web-based email a little more convenient although issues arise from it as well.
.-= JR´s last blog ..U-Haul Rates =-.

thead April 14, 2010 at 3:44 am

The archive calendar does not seem to be included in this back up… is there any way of backing up the archive calendar?

thead April 14, 2010 at 3:44 am

These are indeed very user-friendly instructions which I have used with ease. However, the archive calendar does not seem to be included in this back up… is there any way of backing up the archive calendar?

Mike McEvoy April 14, 2010 at 11:47 am

The archive Calendar will be included in the Archive.pst file that is normally stored in the same location as the Outlook.pst file. When you launch the Outlook Backup utility click the Options button which will show both the Outlook.pst file and the Archive.pst file. Check the box for each to back up both files.

MARIA ISABEL MORILLO May 5, 2011 at 6:42 am


Peter July 13, 2010 at 7:48 pm

Hi Mike,

I’m in the same boat as Romo, above. O.K. so, now I have the utility, but it wants to only install on one user’s login or the other. I set it up under my login, and all was good..but it didn’t show up on the wife’s side. I uninstalled it from my side and reinstalled it on her’s, so now I don’t have it. Arg! Whenever I try to reinstall it on the opposing account, it fails because I am notified that it is already installed, and I must unistall it first. When I attempt to do that (from the other side) it tells me that it can’t because it isn’t installed. Thank you Mr. Gates! Any words of wisdom to help me get this most-needed tool for all users of my system? I haven’t tried the MS fix of extracting the pfbackup.msi from the install file. But I have to say, that’s because I’m not really sure which utility can do that. I appreciate any advise you have to offer.

Mike McEvoy July 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Hi @Peter — Hmm, interesting scenario. In all honesty I haven’t tried to install the backup utility for multiple users on the same computer. Have you tried installing it to a location other than C:\Program Files? Although that probably won’t resolve the issue because after you install it the first time it will show up on the Installed Programs list for all users. Perhaps it’s an issue with both users using the default Outlook Profile. Try setting up a different Outlook Profile with a different name and see if the Backup Utility treats it any differently.

Peter July 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Hi Mike,

Thanks for the tips. I wanted to get back to you with the direction I eventually took. Before I went with setting up multiple profiles, I wanted to give the MS fix a try. So, I downloaded WinRAR, which was able to extract the pfbackup.msi file from the self-extracting pfbackup.exe archive. Upon running the file (on the login that didn’t have the utility), it appeared to go through the install process again. Great. All done? Hmmm, no; still no backup option in the Outlook File menu. O.K. so, I ran it again. It never seems rational, but I’ve been a windows user for long enough, ya know? So, upon the next execution of the msi file, it opens up a repair utility (it’s the only way I know how to descrive it). That does its thing, and voila, I’m good to go. Phew. Fifth time’s a charm, eh? Cheers!

Mike McEvoy July 28, 2010 at 6:15 pm

@Peter — Wow, perseverance pays off. I really appreciate you coming back and sharing what you learned. It’s helpful to me and others. Thanks for the update. I’m glad you were able to get this solved. Cheers!

Bhavesh Gudhka February 4, 2011 at 4:01 am

Thank you for your post. I would like to learn more about software which can do incremental backup of OUTLOOK PST file.

Maria Isabel Morillo May 6, 2011 at 5:00 am

Hi: I restored my Outlook Backup but it didn’t retore my calendar or contacts. I checked the boxes for calendar and contacts on all persolnal folders, but still blank.
Any ideas please?

Simon July 8, 2011 at 7:47 am


I think the best solution is an Outlook backup tool. Many programs are able to backup your outlook data automatically. I use Lookeen Backup Manager and i’m very satisfied!

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